Home Worship Planning History of Hymns History of Hymns: "We Are Called" ("Come! Live in the Light")

History of Hymns: "We Are Called" ("Come! Live in the Light")

By C. Michael Hawn


"We Are Called" ("Come! Live in the Light")
by David Haas
The Faith We Sing, No. 2172

David Haas

Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God
Refrain: We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another,
to walk humbly with God!*

Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), guidelines for Roman Catholic music had suggested that medieval plainsong and Renaissance motets were, for the most part, the most desirable musical models for the liturgy. After Vatican II, musical styles for worship increased exponentially, including indigenous music from around the world and an array of musical genres in the U.S.

The 1960s was the era of protest folk songs. While lacking the sophistication of earlier musical styles and considered by some to be inappropriate music for supporting the Paschal mystery of the Mass, the idiom was simple, accessible and singable.

Catholic composers in the following decades sought to maintain the accessible and singable qualities of the folk idiom, yet wanted to compose in ways that integrated the song more successfully with the Catholic liturgical expectations.

David Haas (b. 1958) is one of the most prominent Catholic composers since the mid-1980s. His songs are musically engaging, appropriate to the spirit of the Mass, and accessible to congregations. Protestants as well as Catholics are beneficiaries of his creativity and devotion to liturgical music.

“We are called” (1988) captures the energy and enthusiasm of the folk song style. Each of the three stanzas exhorts the singer with an imperative verb: “Come! Live in the light!” “Come! Open your heart!” “Sing! Sing a new song!” Folk songs, especially those growing out of the 1960s and 1970s, urge us to action. The action here is inspired by Micah 6:8: “. . . what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God” (NET).**

The first stanza invites us to “Live in the light” of God’s grace and freedom and to reflect that light with “joy and . . . love.” Stanza two, following naturally in the spirit of the first stanza, invites us to “Open our hearts” to “mercy” for all who live in “fear,” “hatred,” and “blindness.” The final stanza invites us to an eschatological vision of the future when “all will be one!”

As in many Roman Catholic songs composed since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the refrain captures the essence of the message drawing explicitly on Isaiah 6:8. Employing a lively musical setting, the composer, however, transforms a mandate from the prophet into a joyful living into our Christian vocation: “We are called” – repeated three times.

Themes of joy, justice, inclusiveness, and unity are among the most common found in the songs in this movement. For example, recall “Lord of the dance” (Sydney Carter, 1963), “We are one in the Spirit” (Peter Scholte, 1966), and “One bread, one body” (John Foley, 1978). David Haas, a composer from the next generation, provides a song that extends the folk song idiom into the next decade with freshness and energy.

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Mr. Haas lives in Eagan, Minnesota, and directs the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. He also serves as the campus minister and artist-in-residence for Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, where he also teaches theology and music.

Mr. Haas studied vocal music performance, piano, and conducting at Central Michigan University, completing his studies in music performance, liturgy, and theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He has served as director of music at parishes in Iowa and Minnesota, and presently is an active member of St. Cecilia Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He gained an international reputation as a composer and clinician while an adjunct instructor and composer-in-residence at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity from 1985-1988. Mr. Haas was also known for his seminars on the implementation of the then-new Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), one of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.

He is one of three liturgical composers who formed what has been informally called the “Minnesota School” of liturgical composition, all graduating from the University of St. Thomas. According to the website for GIA Music, one of his publishers, Mr. Haas, Michael Joncas, and Marty Haugen produced “some of the most popular and effective music for the Church’s worship that has appeared in the days following the Second Vatican Council.”

Mr. Haas is an advocate for expanding the role of young people in the life and liturgy of the church. He is the founder and executive director of Music Ministry Alive!, a liturgical music formation curriculum that has influenced hundreds of high school and college young people.

He is the author of more than twenty books ranging from liturgical music and liturgy to youth ministry and spirituality. One of his recordings, I Shall See God, was nominated in 1991 for a Grammy Award, and his book, The Ministry and Mission of Sung Prayer, received the Outstanding Professional Book Award in 2003 from the Catholic Press Association. In 2004, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians named him the Pastoral Musician of the Year.

* © 1988 GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

**NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

C. Michael Hawn is University Distinguished Professor of Church Music, Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

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